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What Is Fake News?

Keeping it real. Creation Date Sunday, 26 February 2017. Hits 3501

What Is Fake News?

In the lead up to the 2016 Presidential Election we heard a lot about fake news. Stories like "Pizzagate" were getting their play on Facebook and other social media sites much to the frustration of legitimate journalists. It got so bad that Facebook was supposed to introduce a "Fake News" alert to pop up on stories that aren't legitimate, although I've seen no evidence of them having done that. Since President Trump was elected, we've heard even more about fake news, but it seems to be an entirely different type of thing which he is referencing. Last week the President spoke at CPAC and he gave us a glimpse into what he is talking about when he makes the "Fake News" claim, and it might not be what you think it is. Let's take a look at what Trump had to say about fake news, and then we will take a look at what fake news actually is.

President Trump at CPAC

And I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It's fake, phony, fake.
A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people.
Because they have no sources, they just make 'em up when there are none. I saw one story recently where they said, "Nine people have confirmed." There're no nine people. I don't believe there was one or two people. Nine people.
And I said, "Give me a break." Because I know the people, I know who they talk to. There were no nine people. But they say "nine people." And somebody reads it and they think, "Oh, nine people. They have nine sources." They make up sources.
They're very dishonest people. In fact, in covering my comments, the dishonest media did not explain that I called the fake news the enemy of the people. The fake news. They dropped off the word "fake." And all of a sudden the story became the media is the enemy.
They take the word "fake" out. And now I'm saying, "Oh no, this is no good." But that's the way they are.
So I'm not against the media, I'm not against the press. I don't mind bad stories if I deserve them. 

Now if what he said here were true, it would indeed be fake news. The problem is he had already contradicted this notion a week ago when he said "The leaks are absolutely real". If the leaks are real when you want to crack down on the leakers, than they have to be real when the network airs the story. So it seems that the President is now disputing his claim from a week ago to distract from the news that is out there. In other words, his issue isn't with the authenticity of the news, it is with the impact of it's content.

So what exactly is fake news? It's journalism that doesn't live up to journalistic standards of finding and reporting the facts as they occurred. For it to be fake news, it is done intentionally. An error isn't an attempt to fake. You can easily distinguish between fake news and errors by watching the reaction from the outlet that ran the story. Errors are corrected and retracted with a note in the edited article, a segment in the show, or a printed retraction in the next issue. Fake news is left out there for further consumption, or modified without admission of error or wrongdoing.

Now, in the Presidential address he exposed a bit of fake news of his own. He said the following to the audience in attendance.

I would've come last year but I was worried that I would be, at that time, too controversial. We wanted border security. We wanted very, very strong military. We wanted all of the things that we're going to get...
... and people consider that controversial but you didn't consider it controversial.

This is in contradiction to the statement his campaign released when he pulled out of CPAC, complete with the typically included misspelling.

The Trump campaign released a statement to reporters announcing that it would be in "Witchita, Kanasas [sic] for a major rally on Saturday prior to Caucus."
"He will also be speaking at the Kansas Caucus and then departing for Orlando, Florida and a crowd of approximately 20,000 people or more," the campaign said. "Because of this, he will not be able to speak at CPAC as he has done for many consecutive years." 

This is a fine example of what would be fake news. He now admits that he pulled out of CPAC during the campaign because his views were controversial to conservatives. At the time, however, he insisted that he was pulling out of the event because of a scheduling conflict. Now I'm not arguing that there was no scheduling conflict. I'm sure there was. This statement from the President, however, explains how that conflict got resolved. Do you want to go to a campaign event where thousands of people will cheer and adore you, or do you want to go to CPAC where real conservatives will sit on their hands while you lay out liberal solutions to problems that face conservatives? He went with the former.

The real irony is that most of the fake news comes from Trump and his supporters. My social media accounts are inundated with these stories from his supporters on a daily basis. Stories that have no basis in reality, and are easily contradicted with readily available facts. Let me give you a few examples of memes I see out there that contain false information that is designed to sway political opinion.

Mexico has wall on border with Guatemala.

This is one of my personal favorites, because it is designed to convince you that Mexico has no reason to oppose us building a wall on our southern border, because they built one on theirs. One little problem though. Not only is there no continuous barrier on the southern border of Mexico, the fence shown is actually the existing fence on the United States southern border. Thus, not only does this meme fail to present a rational justification for building the barrier, it also exposes the futility of such a structure since we already have the fence in place that was supposed to stop illegal crossing, but we're demanding more of the same thing that isn't working now.

Hillary Clinton freed a rapist.

This story is at least based in the truth, but it had a bunch of lies wrapped up in it. Hillary Clinton did defend an accused rapist, but she didn't get him freed. She got him to plead guilty to a lesser charge. In other words, she got him locked up as opposed to getting him set free. That's just the tip of the iceberg of lies that were wrapped into that particular story, but it was again fake news.

In the internet age, we live in a culture where anyone can buy a website and report "news" to their viewers. Since I launched this blog, I have gone out of my way to be up front and honest in letting people know exactly what it is I do here. I have always tried to make my slogan "Your world, my spin" front and center in my design scheme so the reader will know that I am an opinionated source as opposed to straight journalism. I always try to bring you the legitimate news, but I then give my opinion on said story. I was recently asked how I manage to avoid falling victim to fake news, so I gave these tips to the friend that asked.

  1. Get your news from established, credible sources. CNN, FOX News, ABC, AP, Reuters, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, the list goes on.
  2. Cross reference those stories against other outlets. If the NY Times is reporting "sources tell us" check FOX News and CNN for similar stories. Do they report "our sources tell us" or "NY Times is reporting that sources tell them"? The more sources that independently confirm a story, the more likely it is to be true.
  3. It's great to read opinion blogs, but understand what they are when you are reading them. When reading an opinion blog like this one, look for links to verify the accounts they give you. Did that person really say what they claim, or are they linking you to another opinion blog that made the same false claim?
  4. Do not get your news from social media. People buy domains similar to legitimate outlets and design their sites to look like the original source to deceive their readers into thinking they are reading "CNN" when in fact they are reading a cloned site. There are plenty of apps like Flipboard that you can tailor for content that interests you, or you can use a source like AP or Reuters to take in a broad base of legitimate stories.
  5. Be aware of headlines that contradict the information contained in the article. I was reading one the other day that said "California to make it illegal for students to travel to anti-lgbt states". The article, however, stated that it was simply going to make it illegal for the states to pay for people to travel to those states. Since many people only read the headlines and (at best) skim the article, this is an easy tactic to lead people astray.

These are a few tips to help you avoid fake news. Feel free to post your own ideas in the comments section below. There are a whole host of people out there trying to guide you down the wrong path. Good luck navigating your way through the fake news so you can keep it real in the internet age.


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About the Author

Steve Parry

Steve Parry

Steve Parry is the creator and host of The Axis of Stevil Show. His articles can be found here at the site. For more information, click the following link.

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